The third trimester began in early June and I felt great. Jonathon had been really busy with work but was home for a couple days and we went hiking at Snowbird and climbing in Little Cottonwood Canyon. It was really fun despite feeling rather slow and heavy.
In late June, I flew up to Seattle to meet my nephew and hang out with my sister and her husband. It was a relaxing week and my sister showed me what life is like with a newborn. Her baby is named William and he is about the cutest little thing. Erica and I got excited about introducing the cousins and thinking about their future adventures together!
When I got back to Salt Lake City, Jonathon had left for his season in the Alps and I was scheduled to work some night shifts at the hospital. Things started to get harder and more exhausting around that time. My feet were very sore after my shifts and I was feeling more swollen. My rings stopped fitting and by 36 weeks, I finally got myself some new shoes to wear at work.
I was still hiking but was much, much slower. I started watching more movies and baking cookies to pass the time. I went to the movie theatre. I spent a lot of time at the pool with my friends and their kids. I went to the spa and got massages and facials. I tried to learn how to relax and take advantage of some of my last moments of quiet.
I admit this was hard for me and I began to feel a bit restless. I often travel to cooler climates in the summer and that wasn’t an option this summer and so I found my mind thinking about climbing in puffy jackets and glaciated landscapes. I also started to miss climbing a bit more and started thinking about getting back in shape and what climbing was going to look like in the years to come. I know lots of moms who get after it and my hope for myself is that I can be patient with myself as I get back in shape and find a balance that works for me in terms of meeting my athletic goals and being present as a mother. I don’t think it will be easy but I believe that it can be done.
On a positive note, baby was very active in my belly and that was pretty entertaining to watch my belly shift and move and imagine his little legs squirming in my uterus.
At around 37 weeks, I started to have very frequent Braxton Hicks contractions especially while at work. I started to feel like I was functioning like half a person and felt mildly guilty about my poor performance at work. Outside of work, I felt pretty good. Since Jonathon wasn’t going to be home until August 12, I started to get a little stressed about delivering a baby without him around. In hindsight, I think we both would have scheduled him to come home a little earlier. But I have done lots of hard things in the past and I relied on those past experiences to harness the strength I needed to get through the final weeks of pregnancy without my partner by my side.
With all the mini contractions, my midwife advised really limiting my activity to minimize the risk of the baby coming early. Although the baby would be healthy if delivered at this time, I really wanted Jonathon to be there. So I took resting to the next level and stopped hiking and doing much of any physical activity. It didn’t get any easier (resting that is) and I had to remember that this may be my last moments of quiet and tried to remember to be grateful for this time.
When Jonathon came home, I was very happy! We worked on house projects, went climbing and went on walks. It was nice to have some companionship. It seemed like the contractions slowed down and I thought it might be due to feeling less stressed. Although now that he was home, I was ready to have the baby and get on with life post-pregnancy. My hands and feet felt rather swollen and it was getting harder to move around due to the baby dropping into my pelvis. I was still working at the hospital and that continued to be challenging but my co-workers were very helpful and supportive during this time.
Baby’s due date arrived and there was no sign of him making his arrival. I was starting to get restless and impatient and tried all the tricks to get labor to commence. I went hiking and even climbed at the climbing gym in effort to increase activity and induce labor. At 40 weeks and 5 days, I got a massage from my doula and that night labor began at around 0200. The contractions felt intense but they were still pretty far apart. At around 0800 on Sunday August 27, we drove to the hospital. It was a pretty uncomfortable drive but I was able to walk to labor and delivery between contractions. When I arrived, I was only dilated to 2 – 3 cm and I thought they would send me home but an ultrasound confirmed that the placenta looked old and the amniotic fluid was low and so they wanted to keep me regardless. I think I might have yelled at someone, had they sent me home.
Labor was some pretty gnarly pain – like pain I had never experienced before. It was hard to get in a comfortable position and things were not moving very quickly. After 6.5 hours and dilating to 6 cm, I opted to get the epidural. And then labor became easy and progress slowed. The next day arrived and we opted to start pitocin and break the bag of waters to help labor progress. Twenty four hours after labor began, I was finally able to push. After two hours, baby boy still hadn’t moved and was beginning to have some late decelerations. My midwife was concerned about these late decelerations and thought that he was facing in the OP position and so she consulted the MD. When the MD came into assess, she was also concerned and thought that we needed to do a C-section ASAP. My biggest fear about labor was coming true and I was going to need surgery to get my little dude out. Mostly I was upset that my recovery was going to be longer than anticipated.
Things happened really fast and before I knew it I was in the OR and baby boy was born at 0430 on August 28. It really was an awful experience as I could feel all the pressure and puked and had the shakes. I could hear the doctors yelling about my small pelvis and requesting a stool so they could have more leverage to pull the baby out. When Jonathon brought the baby over to me, it was all I could do to smile as I felt so awful and exhausted. It was the opposite birth experience that I had hoped for but I knew there was a chance of that outcome and I tried to remain thankful that we were both alive and healthy.
My recovery was complicated by a minor case of pre-eclampsia. After getting discharged from the hospital, I developed an awful headache. My blood pressure was elevated and my midwife advised me to go to the ER to get evaluated. I was hoping the headache and elevated blood pressure was just related to stress and pain but when one of my liver labs came back a bit elevated, they decided to admit me to receive magnesium. Magnesium is prophylactic to prevent seizures and seizures are a risk associated with pre-eclampsia. Magnesium also makes people feel terrible; kind of like having the flu. It was another awful experience and it was all I could do to breastfeed, never mind take care a baby. Fortunately, Jonathon was a rock-star and my parents helped out a ton too. I am lucky to have such a good support system.
Three days later, I was discharged from the hospital again. Slowly, I began to re-gain my strength and adjust to life as a family of three. We named our baby boy Ari Joel Spitzer and he was 6 lbs and 8 oz and 19 inches long. He has captured our hearts.